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This quote is from the same Druidry book as last week's post, and is about the different worlds, or realms of existence, according to the Ancient Celts:

From Brendan Cathbad Myers's The Mysteries of Druidry (2006):
"The threefold 'vertical' division of Sky, Land, and Sea, which roughly correspond to Heaven, Earth, and Underworld, is intersected with a fourfold 'horizontal' division of the Earth, the realm where we live, corresponding to the four cardinal directions."





Circle Celtic Tree of Life by foxvox
It's simply stated, so let's look at what these worlds actually are. First of all, the three vertical divisions are divided according to a spiritual sense. The Underworld is called Annwin, which is the realm of the dead, seen as being "below" our world. This is where we came from before becoming humans, and where our soul will return. This is often symbolized by the sea, or by water.
The terrestrial, mortal world that we live in is called Abred. It seems to me that this is the only world where things can grow, die, and actually change. Obviously, the symbol for this is the land.
Lastly, the celestial realm, where spirits and deities exist, is called Gwynfyd. This is our proper home, and our soul is on the way there, though it may go between Abred and Annwin many times as it incarnates into physical form and then becomes a spirit (bodiless being in Annwin) in an intermediate period between its next incarnation. This is the Druid's idea of reincarnation. Similarly to many other religions such as Buddhism, the soul will eventually get out of this cycle to reach Gwynfyd (or at least, that's the goal). The number of reincarnations it takes to reach Gwynfyd is different for everyone due to their level of enlightenment, making some people "ready" for the higher world earlier than others.


These realms are united along a vertical axis, conjoining in a Sacred Centre on Earth, symbolized in the image of the World Tree. The Druids made passage mounds such as at Newgrange in Ireland (see picture) to unite these realms and so be able to pass between them or communicate with beings in the other worlds. At Newgrange, sunlight enters the inner chamber only once a year on December 21 (Midwinter's Day), where the sun is "born" anew. This is when the three realms come together at the centre, and life is renewed every year. So the Druids' idea of "creation" is not a single process, but rather something that is ongoing that we can take part in as well.


Celtic Cross (Graveyard of the Parish Church of St Materiana, Tintagel, Cornwall UK), by Zanthia, via Flickr
Now, the horizontal divisions divide Abred into four realms which correspond to sunrise in the east, sunset in the west, the top of the sun's arc in the south, and the bottom of the sun's arc in the north. They also correspond to the four regions of Ireland, and a host of other things too. The design of four stations and a circle around them is also found inside Newgrange's passage mound. This is also represented by the equal-armed Celtic Cross. The circle in the Celtic Cross represents Time, which unites the four stations around it. The central circle is also the joining point for the upper and lower worlds, if you imagine them coming out of the image and into the image vertically. Celtic crosses are also symbols of unity, with perfect harmony along every direction.


  







In the picture below, you can see the three worlds (named differently though) and the four divisions of the Earth:Celtic Cosmology by Morsoth

So this is the basic structure of the world in Celtic cosmology. It is similar to other traditions as well, which, as I've read in other books, points to their common source of inspiration that has spread throughout the world since ancient times.

This quote is from the philosopher and poet Lao Tzu, who was also the founder of Taoism. There are many legends about him, including one where he rode a water buffalo (see picture on right), that he was born as an old man with a beard, and that he lived nine-hundred and ninety-nine years, but let's look at something that's fairly certain that he wrote:

From Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching (~6th century BC):
"My words are very easy to understand, very easy to practice.
But no one is able to understand them,
And no one is able to practice them.
Words have authority.
Affairs have ancestry.
It is simply because of their ignorance, that they do not understand me;
Those who understand me are few,
thus, I am ennobled.
For this reason, the sage wears coarse clothing over his shoulders,
but carries jade within his bosom."


If you have read any more of the Tao Te Ching, you'll know that most of it is comprised of small verses like these. They're easy to read and are illuminating, but not always easy to understand. But although the first line of this one is debatable, it isn't too difficult to see the gist of it.
The sage (Lao Tzu, really) has no complicated philosophical advice, and he claims that his words are easy to put into practice. In the Tao Te Ching, we see a lot of Taoist ideas of living in harmony with the world around you and communing peacefully with the Tao, that ineffable principle by means of which everything in the universe exists. These principles are not about changing things externally, but molding oneself internally.
So although the sage's words are easy to understand and practice, few people can do it, because most of us do not have the right mindset. That is my reading anyway, because if people approach this looking for personal gain or some sort of higher qualities, they will not be able to reach the simpler truth of how things are. This is their "ignorance", an ignorance that makes them unable to see the world in a spiritual way (see my previous post for more on this). They are unable to see the way in which the sage's "words" will mold them and their view on life.
Now, why is the sage "ennobled" when few people understand him? Perhaps it is because few people have deeper insights about the world and their place in it, and so in order to truly understand the sage's teachings and to reach towards an understanding of the Tao (though you can never really understand the Tao because it's not something the human mind can grasp), you have to be one of these people. I think that anyone can have these deeper insights, but few take the time or effort to cultivate a more philosophical or spiritual attitude. Thus, to teach it to the few people who do is ennobling, but to teach it to people who would not understand would be wasteful, and those people could try to twist it to suit their own wishes.
My favourite part is the last sentence though: "the sage wears coarse clothing over his shoulders, but carries jade within his bosom." I think the "coarse clothing" is so that the sage does not physically stand out above others, because he too is human like everyone else. Yes, only some people can understand his teachings, but they are all humans and have a deeper connection to each other that can go unnoticed amid the vastly different clothing and worldly statuses of people in the world, in Lao Tzu's time just as much as today.
But despite this, the sage has "jade", a precious stone, inside him, which is a finer spiritual nature. This leads him to pursue a humble life on Earth while still having knowledge of things beyond it. What is important, the state of the body or the state of your soul? Of course, if you are sick and dying, you can't do much philosophy (though Epicurus is a notable exception), but what do riches matter if you are empty and unfulfilled inside? So the sage does not bother to adorn himself, and not only that, he dresses simply to demonstrate that those sorts of things don't matter. He can dress like a peasant, but that does nothing to his inner "jade", the moral and spiritual spark that he cultivates by his philosophy.
This is what truly matters, and this is what will last with the strength of a precious stone, even though coarse clothing will wither over time.

"A Soul Wanderer never knows. He wanders; he makes his own path through the
heights of the universe."

-Sio Larwick


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Mary-Jean's books

The Printer's Devil
The Crystal Cave
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Lost Prince
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Hobbit
Rise of the Darklings
The Fire King
Clockwork Angel
Jane Eyre
Wuthering Heights
The Lost World
Around the World in Eighty Days
The Sum of All Men
Brotherhood of the Wolf
Wizardborn
The Lair of Bones
Sons of the Oak
Worldbinder
The Wyrmling Horde


Mary-Jean Harris's favorite books »

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